Obama characterizes ISIS as “nihilistic” and “speaking for no religion”

You surely know of the brutal murder of captive American journalist James Foley by the Muslim extremist group ISIS (I’ll call them that, though it’s also known as IS as well as ISIL, as Obama calls it below).  Foley was kidnapped in November of 2012 and was held hostage until his murder a few days ago. Apparently his family received a message from ISIS that if the U.S. did not stop its recent bombing attacks on the group, they would kill Foley.  And that they did, through a brutal beheading. He was 40 years old.

Although Foley’s death got special attention, as he was an American, a reporter, and because ISIS murdered him in a particularly public way, we mustn’t forget that he’s only one of thousands of people murdered by this gang of faithful but soulless religious thugs. It’s easy to find photos of people in Iraq and Syria being led away in groups for execution: shooting or beheading.

The solution to this problem eludes me. Bombing is not a long term solution. Sending American troops to Iraq won’t work, as new militants will simply spring up to replace the ones we eliminate, and Americans will no longer tolerate a futile Middle East intervention.

Obama, after calling Foley’s family with a message of condolence, made some eloquent remarks about him that are reported in the Washington Post. The video is below. I applaud his resolve, but am concerned about how he uses this speech to avoid laying any blame on Islam.

If you parse this statement carefully, you’ll find two ways that Obama tries to exculpate religion for the brutal deeds of ISIS.  And this despite ISIS’s repeated and explicit claims that they are completely motivated by Islam—by the desire to extablish the Caliphate, impose sharia law on the lands they conquer, and to extirpate “apostates” (non-Muslims). They often offer their captives the choice to convert to Islam or die, with many choosing the latter. Despite that, Obama says both implicitly and explicitly that Islam is not to blame. This, of course, is a political statement designed to avoid offending Muslims, especially those who don’t share ISIS’s “values.”

First, Obama calls the group “nihilists”:

There has to be a clear rejection of this kind of nihilistic ideologies.

But if you know what nihilism is, you’ll know clearly that ISIS is not nihilistic, for nihilism rejects religion. Here’s the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Nihlism: Total rejection of prevailing religious beliefs, moral principles, laws, etc., often from a sense of despair and the belief that life is devoid of meaning. Also more generally (merging with extended use of sense 3) [“the doctrines or principles of the Russian nihilists”]: negativity, destructivenes, hostility to accepted beliefs or established institutions.”

Now most Americans don’t know that definition, but surely the speechwriter did. And surely if ISIS is anything, it is not nihilistic, for they kill in the name of a religious ideology—an Islamist ideology.

More important, Obama takes a bit of time to argue that ISIS “speaks for no religion”:

Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.

They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.

But surely ISIS speaks for a religion: its own interpretation of Islam.  That interpretation isn’t, of course, shared by many other Muslims, but the group is still speaking and acting on the basis of religious beliefs, and is killing and conquering in the name of Islam. What Obama is doing here is arguing that ISIS’s form of faith is not “proper” or “real” faith. It is “not Islam.”  But of course it is, just as Pentecostals are Christians. And just because ISIS kills Shiite Muslims and those of other faiths doesn’t mean that they are not motivated by Islam.  They’re simply members of an extremist Sunni group.  In fact, when Obama says they kill Christians and others because “they practice a different religion,” he’s tacitly admitting this.

Finally, when Obama asserts that “no just god would stand for what [ISIL] did,” I’m confused. One interpretation is that there is no God, just or otherwise. But that’s clearly not what Obama, who professes faith, means. If Obama believes in God, as do over 90% of Americans, then he’s implying one of two things.  Either God is not just (after all, ISIS is pretty successful), or the American people must exact God’s revenge for Him. Since Obama must maintain that God is just, we’re left with the message that America must go after ISIS on God’s behalf. And, in fact, the President’s message clearly states that we will hold the group, and Foley’s murderers, to account.

We know why Obama says these things. He’s trying to avoid blaming religion for any of the world’s malfeasance. In fact, I doubt that, as President, he’s ever blamed religion for anything bad. It’s political suicide to go after religion even when, as in the case of ISIS, religious belief is clearly behind acts of violence.  But did he have to make the claims that “ISIS stands for no religion” and is “nihilistic”? Why couldn’t he have at least remained silent about their motivations?

In effect, Obama has given religion a pass here, even in its most brutal and deadly form. Just once in my life I’d like to hear an American President tell it like it is. Ideology can be based on many things, and religion is one of them.

If we deny the true motivations of our enemies, can we really fight them effectively—even in the war of ideas?

h/t: Derek

163 Comments

  1. Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Yes, President O, though I like him, has always “played nice” with religion. I can’t remember a President in my lifetime that hasn’t.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Has there ever been a US president who hasn’t “played nice” with religion?

      • microraptor
        Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        No.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Tom Jefferson? Depending on the definition of “nice”.

      • Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        Not to my knowledge, at least in modern times.

  2. eric
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    But surely ISIS speaks for a religion: its own interpretation of Islam.

    Yes it certainly does that. To be charitable to Obama, his point can reasonably interpreted as ‘(we recognize and communicate to the muslim world that) this sect’s acts do not represent the sort of acts that most sects in Islam espouse’. But there is on doubt ISIS is speaking for a religious belief, even if its not a mainstream one.

    Actually, even saying ‘not a mainstream one’ may be incorrect. The fact that this sect of Islam advocates the killing of other muslims from different Islamic sects does not exactly make it unique. Sunnis and shias have been killing each other for centuries. “Kill heretics” IS, arguably, speaking for the religion writ large. Different Islamic sects just vary on who they think the heretics are. This particular sect seems to have a very expansive definition of heretic.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      One would hope Obama could at least refer to a “militant sect” of Islam, just as many Americans qualify the faith of Palin, Bachman, etc. as “fundamentalist” Christianity.

      • eric
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Yes I agree that would’ve been a good label to use.

  3. butames
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I am not sure it is Obama’s intention to avoid criticizing religion. I think it has more to do with a reluctance to potentially alienate many people. While it is unfortunate that Islam is the driving factor behind ISIS, it also a shared culture of many people.
    Since the events of 9/11, there are many Americans who are all too glib in their critique of people who practice that particular faith. A delight that goes beyond mere critiques of the moral philosophy that is Islam and often borders on the racist or xenophobic.
    Obama being the ever careful politician, I assume is trying to avoid a situation where all muslims are painted with the same broad strokes and possibly hampering the fostering of key allies.
    After all, I imagine that getting rid of these ISIS bastards would depend heavily on other muslims. It is going to take the so called moderate muslims to squash out this violent and heretic sect. It hardly does the US any favors if Obama insults them. Better for him to use language that allows for the moderates to distance themselves from ISIS as much as possible.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      “I am not sure it is Obama’s intention to avoid criticizing religion. I think it has more to do with a reluctance to potentially alienate many people.

      I think that is a distinction without a difference. If he overtly criticizes religion (even not so overtly) he will alienate people. To prevent alienating people equates to not criticizing religion.

      • Thomas Senechal
        Posted August 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Amen!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Sure, but he could have done that easily by saying that these people do not speak for all Muslims and left it at that then gone on to talk about why this group’s brutality is repugnant to the values of all reasonable and just nations.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Exactly Diana. I like Obama, but was annoyed by his treatment of ISIL in this speech. They are motivated by religion, and believe they are acting with the will of Allah. To say otherwise is a sop to those who will deliberately misunderstand any other treatment of religion.

        And it didn’t work – Fox still found plenty to criticize in the speech. Their take is basically the US shouldn’t be working with others. Just go in there and kill them all, no questions asked.

        • microraptor
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          Well of course. After all, it worked out so well for us last time we tried that. How can you possible argue when the previous President stood up and said “mission accomplished?” That’s like, total validation of his strategy and stuff.

  4. Gregg
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Though there is likely an element of not wanting to offend muslims in particular, I wonder if part of this is also not wanting to denigrate religion in general. Much like many people argue that moderate religionists give cover to extreme religionists, I wonder if there is some truth in the idea that members of one religion can give cover to another. After all, all religionists have things in common–in particular, basing their beliefs on unfounded assertions. Thus to say that such atrocities can be committed in the name of any version of any religion opens a door of criticism of religion in general.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Seems likely. The irony is, while they are motivated to mutual support, there remains deep animosity between religions. In the U.S. the first amendment promotes diversity and tolerance.

      • microraptor
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        I wouldn’t say that it promotes tolerance.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 22, 2014 at 6:48 am | Permalink

          What is your definition of “tolerance”?

          • microraptor
            Posted August 22, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

            I wasn’t arguing with the word tolerance so much as the use of promotes. Saying something promotes tolerance to me implies that it encourages people to be more tolerant of each others’ beliefs, whereas the First Amendment seems to be more of a “forces people to grudgingly accept tolerance.”

  5. chband
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    It is not fair to blame the twisted ideology on religion. We’ll easily go to “head counts” mode debating what is the motivation of Khmer Rouge, Stalin, and Communist China.

    • redlivingblue
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      If you cannot blame religion for ISIS’ s actions, what do you think is their motivation? Your Stalin/pol pot analogy is flawed because they essentially set their state as it’s own “religion” (Dogmatic policies with no chance of correction of said policies if they are not in the the best interest of the people).

      • chband
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        Let me make it clear for you. The “red extremism” is quite different from religion. There’s no supernatural/superstitious stuff, pure materialism or even naturalism behind most of the political view. However it did not prevent ppl from imposing their own views on the others, or performing extreme measurements on those who won’t agree, or punish so called “thought crime”. What’s in common? Years of war and poverty, lack of basic civil infrastructure and education system,and the low value on human life/individual right.

        • JohnE
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

          Yes, “red extremism” is not a religion in the conventional sense of having some supernatural component, but I think you’re missing redlivingblue’s point (above). Stalinism, for example, is indeed very much like radical Islam in the sense that it represents an ideology that demands unquestioned adherence, with potentially dire consequences for those who dare challenge it.

          • Tulse
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

            Arguably the metaphysics of dialectical materialism and Hegelian philosophy are just as “faith-based” and divorced from reality as any religion.

            • JohnE
              Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

              Arguably, but at least materialism works — at least as far as we can perceive it.

              • Tulse
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

                Dialectical materialism is not simply “materialism” — it involves unjustified, faith-based metaphysics, just as much as religion does.

              • Slumbery
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

                Well, I know somebody who is (claimed to be) a materialistic atheist, but denies the possibility of evolution on the base of the interpretation of some texts of Hegel. When I questioned Hegel’s competency and significance on the matter he looked at me like I am a blasphemer. He also happens to be a communist.

          • chband
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

            Believe it or not, the mind set of red extremism is very different from the religious fanaticism. (There’re difference between Stalinism, Maoism, and Khmer Rouge of course.) But in general it doesn’t consider itself against democracy. IT IS the democracy. IT IS the people. Under extreme circumstances, extreme measurement must be took to destroy its enemy. The result is similar to religious nuts’ way “destroying your body to save your soul”. But according to those “reasonable naturalists” what they are doing is for the greater good, not individual worship. (Even they are worshiping an individual leader)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

            What is weird about Stalinism is I don’t know that everyone was clear on the rules. It seemed almost anything could get you whimsically tossed in a mass grave.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

          As Christopher Hitchens pointed out the common element between cruel dictatorship and cruel religion is the notion of totalitarianism. Authority over the individual. Dogma and ideology over freedom. The differences are more formal, less fundamental. You can worship Mohammed, or worship Stalin, but worship you must.

          • darrelle
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

            That is about the clearest I’ve seen that put. Thanks. I’m going to steal it. So sorry.

          • chband
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

            I agree, the problem is the “Dogma and ideology over freedom”, or like i put, the (historically” “low value on human life/individual right”. Religious worship/any kind of the worship is not the problem. Hell, you can even prosecute people in the name of freedom.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          And religion doesn’t have anything to do with any of those common drivers? I’ll just go ahead and answer that myself. Yes, it does. Every single one of them. The reality is very messy intertwined relationships.

          The reason religion has a high potential for causing problems is because it is used to define every aspect of the world views that people base their identity on. It is, by design, what people hold most dear.

        • redlivingblue
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          Rather snarky. As others have pointed out, the problem is that neither religion or “red extremism” have a method for correctional adjustments in the face of evidence to the contrary of their respective dogmas. Clear? Lol

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      it all comes down to control. Religion must have control to keep claiming it is “true”. dictators must also have the same thing. IMO, the difference is that religion requires invoking a perfect magical being in agreement with whatever horrific acts are being taken. It is much harder to show a god is wrong then a man.

    • eric
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      That’s a head count religion will lose, since none of those groups committed their genocides in the service of atheism or an atheist ideology.

      Laying blame for Stalin’s purges at the feet of atheism is kinda like saying the Romans conquered their known world because of their polytheism. No, they didn’t; they had that ideology, but it clearly wasn’t their motivation for conquest.

      Lastly, even if atheism were to blame for those things, it would be completely fair to make the connection. In fact in such a case it would unfair not to make the connection – we ought to follow where the evidence leads, even if it leads somewhere we don’t like. So yes, it’s completely fair to point out that ISIS’ twisted ideology is religious, that it belongs in the category of religious motivations. And if the logic behind that conclusion leads analogously to some conclusion about some atheist group*, then yes we should accept that too. You use good reason and let the chips fall where they may – you don’t abandon it because it might say something nasty about a group you like.

      *I don’t think it does, I’m arguing the hypothetical here.

      • JohnE
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Your analogy to the Roman’s is a good one. However, when religionists cite Stalinism as the by-product of atheism, it’s clear that there is actually an implicit assumption on their part that atheism (with its absence of god-given rules and consequences for violations of those rules) necessarily leads to cruelty and general immorality — an assumption that is easily refutable in a number of ways, including the low incidence of reported atheism in prisons and high incidence of atheism in Scandinavian countries.

        • reasonshark
          Posted August 22, 2014 at 1:22 am | Permalink

          More to the point, Stalinism was moralistic political dogmatism that centred around the insecurities of one narcissistic man with too much power and not enough checks and balances imposed by other institutions (such as democratic input). We know why it’s a bad system already, and it doesn’t involve casting atheism aside.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Sure it is. What isn’t fair, what is dangereous and has contributed to the continuation of this kind of thing at significant levels in our societies for longer than need be, is the insistent, clearly false, claim that religion doesn’t have anything to do with it.

      Religion isn’t the only problem, that also is obvious. And no, ideology doesn’t get religion a pass. If you think you can cleanly separate ideology, religion, culture, and many of the other rather amorphous concepts we use to try and understand human behavior, that is the first error.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      Dogma (its close cousin, authoritarianism)& sociopathy all ganged up together in all those events.

      Religion is a form a dogma that seems to endure longer than political ideologies because it is more difficult to challenge it simply because its adherents feel it comes from inside them much more often than a political dogma.

    • GBJames
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      That’s insane, IMO. If you refuse to recognize the motivation here as religious, when they explicitly tell you it is, you’re just playing make-believe.

      • Kevin
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        +1. They do state, repeatedly, that it is religion that motivates and justifies their actions. It is not likely they are lying to themselves when they say Takbir (God is great).

      • Daoud
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        I think you’re neglecting several things:

        a) people lie (including to themselves).

        b) people tend to be unaware of the actual economic and social motivations underlying things.

        It seems odd to me that so many commentators here, people who I assume are aware of things like determinism and human evolution, always accept at face-value what people say.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

          I think this sub-issue is a mis-direct. I also think your characterization, “always accept,” is an unwarranted exaggeration used for rhetorical purposes.

        • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          When you consider the frequency with which IS invokes islam, is it really reasonable to think that they’re lying to themselves?

          Accepting what people say, when they’ve made their motivations abundantly clear, should not be seen as odd for a group of rational thinkers. What I consider to be odd is the frequency with which people deny that religion is the motivating IS’s genocide as they have stated, repeatedly that they serve, in a warped an brutal manner, islam.

        • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          What’s the economic and social motivation for crucifixion and hacking heads off?

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Why not, when it is clearly based on religion.It is asserted by those doing it that it is based on religion.
      That there can be other twisted ideologies is not in question.
      It was Vietnam that went in to save Cambodia after all.
      Criticism where it is due.

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Perhaps one should view religion as an accelerant in this case.

  6. eric
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    We know why Obama says these things. He’s trying to avoid blaming religion for any of the world’s malfeasance.

    I would like to think he’s got a more practical goal in mind. I.e., maintaining good relations with Islamic ‘enemies of my enemy,’ such as the Kurds and Iraqi government. IF (and I acknowledge it’s a big if) a few nice-nice words about Islam can yield practical on-the-ground gains – such as greater material commitments by locals – then yeah I’m totally okay with it. I’d rather see Islam feted and ISIS pushed back than the opposite.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      Exactly. The only way to address ISIS will heavily involve other Islamic countries, and alienating potential allies in this fight would be politically foolish. So Obama has to maintain the polite fiction that ISIS is unrelated to the religion of those countries.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        I disagree. He could, and should, be able to say to followers of Islam something like “Followers of Islam need to find a way to expunge rationalizations for this kind of violence from their faith.” If we aren’t allowed to speak honestly with one another, how can we expect any progress?

        • Tulse
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

          Honesty and politics rarely go together, especially at the international level.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

            Well, I can’t really argue with that observation.

          • darrelle
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

            As GBJames said, you can’t really argue with that observation. But, I think the old saw that if nobody ever tries nothing will change is applicable. Yes, hard to do when if you do try you either never make it to the big leagues at all, or you end up out on your ass.

            Another but, in the case of a president in their second term, they are out anyway. It would be nice to see one drop all the bullshit.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

              In his defence, saying it outright may just cause such a kerfuffle that everyone would lose sight of the issue. I’d settle for just saying that not all Muslims are to blame but these guys are big fat murderous jerks and we aren’t buying the shit they are selling.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                The problem is that the fear of kerfuffles is preventing people from acknowledging what is real in the world.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

                Or is it those who tolerate the people starting the kerfuffles. There should be no tolerance of the stupid fits thrown over nothing that are just distractions from important issues.

        • eric
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          I think that would still be pragmatically unwise, because you’re still telling the people you’re asking for help that they are doing something wrong/falling down on the job/not policing their own. It’s the equivalent of “hey Bob, your house is a complete mess and you haven’t mowed your lawn in three weeks…can I borrow $5?”

          But I like JonLynnHarvey’s suggestion: when addressing your potenital (or real) muslim allies, say something like “ISIS is a militant sect that does not speak for us.” That parsing recognizes that ISIS is a religious organization (‘sect’) that is also violent (‘militant’) while telling your ally that you have common ground with them (‘us’) against this enemy.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            The lawn analogy doesn’t work for me. More reasonable, IMO:

            “Hey Bob, our neighborhood is being overrun with rats. Your backyard has a pile of uncollected garbage that is providing them food and lodging. Can you take care of that, please?”

            • eric
              Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

              Your analogy doesn’t work for me, because AFAIK the Kurds behavior in no way invited or contributed to the growth of ISIS. They oppose it, in fact. And get killed for opposing it. So in a sense you’re blaming (some of) the victims. Are you honestly saying with your garbage analogy that the Kurds are to blame for creating an environment that supports Sunni militant groups that make it their business to kill Kurds?

              Hmmmm…hunting around for a better analogy…”hey Bob, you love football. But loving football has become inseparable from drinking and riots in some sub-cultures. Clearly what’s to blame here is the loving, watching, and playing of football, and we think you should stop watching and playing it.”

              Isn’t the better solution to go after those subcultures where football is connected to drinking/riots? Since we know not all football spectators indulge in drinking and riots, they are (despite the anonymous speaker’s claim in the example) separable. So we allow people the freedom to practice football-watching while discouraging the violence that goes along with it (in those subcultures where the two occurr together).

              • GBJames
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

                What I’m blaming is a religion that contains within it the rational for actions like we’re seeing from ISIS. The fact that this religious framework allows some of the faithful to kill others of the faithful does not make the roots of Islamic terror any less religious.

                Bob’s backyard is where the rats are breeding, even if Bob himself is not trying to make the rat population increase on purpose. The rest of our neighborhood is suffering from this infestation and the fact that Bob is needing to fight against a few that have gotten in his house doesn’t mean his backyard isn’t where they are coming from.

          • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            I think this thread is a perfect illustration of why diplomacy is such a sticky wicket.

        • jay
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          This just reinforces the perception of his being soft on Islam. Even to people who don’t buy the conspiracy nonsense

  7. Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder how my reading pals Art Schopenhauer and Fred Nietzche would feel about being stuck in the same box with these backwards religious zealots.

  8. Dave
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Yes, I agree with butames that Obama’s stance is a necessary tactical expedient, no matter how preposterous it may seem to us. If this “Islamic State” is to be crushed – as I believe it must be – then the bulk of the ground fighting will have to be done by other muslims, presumably some combination of Iraqi government forces, Kurds and maybe others. It would be counter-productive to say that “This savagery springs directly from the barbaric doctrines of Islam, and in fact these IS guys are probably the most authentic muslims around today”.

    I also agree that aerial force, on its own, won’t be enough to end this scourge, but it will certainly be a necessary accompaniment to a ground offensive by predominantly muslim forces, and for that reason should be liberally applied. Along with Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab there is currently no other group on Earth more deserving of a good bombing.

  9. Tulse
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    no just god would stand for what [ISIL] did

    When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
    And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
    – Deuteronomy 7:1-2

    And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. – Joshua 3:10

    And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. […] So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country. – Joshua 6: 21, 27

    For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. – Joshua 8:26

    So it was, when they brought out those kings to Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the captains of the men of war who went with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” And they drew near and put their feet on their necks. Then Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging on the trees until evening. – Joshua 10:24-26

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t have come up with specific verses, but this was also my reaction to the “no just god” line.

  10. Danbite
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    “No just god would stand for what they did” must mean only one thing for a theist – God will be punishing them soon. Why God didn’t care to stop them from doing something in his name that he wouldn’t stand for in the first place is left as an exercise for theologians to answer.

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      The problem is that many Christians believe that their gods act through them. See, for example:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trijicon_biblical_verses_controversy

      for an idea of how one or more of the Christian gods might soon punish the evildoers.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        “The problem is that many Christians believe that their gods act through them.”

        One of the few things they’re right about.

  11. Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Nihilistic? Nah. Hell, I can even respect a healthy dose of intellectually justified nihilism. What we have here are religious sadists on emotional jet fuel.

  12. Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    One step in the right direction would be to tell all Muslim countries that the US will cut off all foreign and military aid until they send military to fight ISIS. Their religion created this problem, and they say it is an insult to Islam. If burning a Koran justifies riots, why doesn’t this particular insult require a military response?

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Total guess here – because the people willing to kill in the name of protecting Islam are already doing so.

      It really is just a guess, though. I’m an engineer, not an international politician.

  13. gravityfly
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    As long as “moderate” Muslims are not protesting against ISIS, Islam, per se, is to blame for this brutality.

    • eric
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      I believe the Kurds are actually fighting them on the ground. I think risking ones’ life in battle against them should qualify as “protesting against” them, don’t you?

      • gravityfly
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        I meant “protesting en masse”. The same magnitude of protests we see when a Quran is burned or a film is made about Muhammad (but without the rampage and killing).

        When something is important to them, Muslims worldwide have demonstrated that they can make their sentiments known.

        I see a marked lack of care on their part about what ISIS does.

        The Kurds are fighting for their very lives. That’s a normal reaction to threat. You would have a point if several Muslim countries formed a coalition and went to battle against ISIS, but that’s not what is happening.

        Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others have sizable and potent armies. Will they fight ISIS because it “tarnishes” the name of Islam? I doubt it – they know that ISIS have theological justifications for what they do, just as the moderates do. It’s all in the “interpretation”.

        • eric
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          Americans don’t protest en masse against some of the more draconian policies of our government. There was no en masse protest against the Iraq war, for example.

          So are YOU, as a American, to blame for it because you couldn’t muster enough fellow protestors to make it a collective mass (or masse :)?

          • Mohamed
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

            I would say yes. When we don’t protest gov’t policies then we get what we deserve. To the extent that the gov’t truly represents the people, that is.

            The largely silent response from the Islamic world towards ISIS indicates that they either don’t care or they agree with ISIS.

            • eric
              Posted August 22, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

              You realize that your logic is exactly the same logic Osama Bin Ladin used to justify his terrorist attacks, right? If you read much of his early public pronouncements, he makes the argument that because US civilians share in the responsilibily of their government’s punitive policies, they are legitimate targets for reprisal. You appear to agree.

              I disagree with that sort of reasoning. Groups are not individuals, and individuals within a group acting in a reprehensible manners is not, on its own, sufficient reason to blame the group (as an organization) or the non-acting individuals within it. Further evidence of a connection is needed. Now, JAC will argue that there is further evidence that Islam promotes violent action, and its not my intent here to argue for or against that claim. My intent here is to say that the argument you and gravityfly have given here is not very good, and yields some extremely bad consequences if we applied it consistently to ourselves (rather than just a religion we don’t approve of). Its Golden Rule time; if you don’t think its right to assign blame to one (group of) Americans for the things another (group of) Americans has done, don’t assign blame to one (group of) muslims for the things other (groups of) muslims have done.

          • gravityfly
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            I would say yes. When we don’t protest gov’t policies then we get what we deserve. To the extent that the gov’t truly represents the people, that is.

            The largely silent response from the Islamic world towards ISIS indicates that they either don’t care or they agree with ISIS.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

            The difference, eric, is that gravityfly, me, and most other Americans don’t go on violent binges if someone burns a US flag or insults Benjamin Franklin. I know of few people who fly into a rage and kill people because someone drew a cartoon of George Washington or Abe Lincoln.

            Unless you’re exceedingly ill-informed, you are very much aware of what happens world wide if a Koran is burned or someone publishes a cartoon of The Prophet.

            • eric
              Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:46 am | Permalink

              So, are we agreed then that the set of [American public] that don’t go on violent binges are not responsible and cannot be blamed for the set of [American public] who do?

              I’m in total agreement with that. I hope, however, that you apply that logic consistently and don’t just carve out an exception for us. If it’s true for [American public], then it is equally true of [Muslim public], yes?

              • GBJames
                Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

                It is not “carving an exception” to point out that the large number of Muslims who complain, demonstrate, or get violent when a cartoon appears is in stark contrast to the relative silence from such world-wide quarters when horrors are committed by Islamists against other Muslims. If there have been large and loud demonstrations in the streets of London in protest to ISIS, they have been extremely well concealed.

                In the 21st Century there simply is no equivalent situation at remotely a similar scale in the non-Islamic world.

                The “literal word of Allah” nature of Islam’s founding documents leave little room for moderate Muslims to avoid this hypocritical stance. While I have little but contempt for other monotheistic religions, at least Xtianity and Judaism contain enough ambiguity and “metaphor” for most believers to separate themselves easily from the extremists.

              • Posted August 22, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

                Of course, the reason for this metaphor in other religions has much to do with the unceasing push of secularism for the last several centuries. The women in Salem four centuries ago certainly would’ve appreciated a more nuanced interpretation of the Bible. I imagine the Native American tribes who were conquered and converted because “Jesus comes not to bring peace, but a sword” would’ve appreciated a good dose of Enlightenment era philosophy instead, if simply leaving them alone wasn’t an option.

                There is no reason why the Koran cannot be interpreted metaphorically (casting aside its own pronouncements to take it literally). We all see that the Bible obviously has passages which can be (and often are) taken literally. The Muslim world just doesn’t have the equivalent of a Thomas Jefferson to rip out the supernatural stuff and rewrite the moral parts of the Koran. It does have people who reject it, but they often risk their lives for doing so. In comparison to thinkers such as Locke, Hume and many of the writers of our Constitution, who may have been branded heretics by some but weren’t murdered, much of the Muslim world is still several centuries behind where we were in the 1700s.

                I don’t know what spark it takes to cause this to change. I can only imagine that it’s possible at some point that people within Islam will get fed up enough to realize that things are extraordinarily shitty living in a theocracy, but I am very skeptical as to whether there is anything we can do to force such change to commence faster.

              • eric
                Posted August 22, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

                The Syrian army is fighting them.

                The Turks are fighting them.

                The government of Iran (about the last place we’d expect support for any of our positions) has made public statements against them.

                The top cleric in Saudi Arabia has said ISIS is the number one threat to Islam.

                Hezbollah has described ISIS as a “monster” and publicly said they should be stopped.

                Here’s a juicy quote from Antara news (out of Indonesia which has about 220 million muslims) – “Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesias largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) has called for firm action against emergence of groups claiming to be part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Indonesia.

                “The government must be firm. The police must act,” NU general chairman KH Said Aqil Siroj said here on Friday, stating NUs stance toward the issue.”

                GB James, are you sure you haven’t mistaken “I’m not aware of muslims protesting it” for “there are no muslims protesting it”? You claim these countries are “relatively silent” on the matter? Nothing could be further from the truth. What is likely happening is that you aren’t reading what they say because it doesn’t splash onto any of the front pages of western news media.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 22, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

                I look forward to links to photographs of large angry demonstrations by Muslims world-wide in opposition to ISIS. I’m sure you’ll provide them, eric.

  14. Kevin
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I think people can fight [IS] effectively—even in the war of ideas. It is dishonest to not attribute the motivations for their actions as religious, but a successful defeat of IS does not require that you think they are religious.

    Obama stands by religion, and this decision is epistemologically empty.

  15. Dyami Hayes
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    RE COYNE: “It’s political suicide to go after religion even when, as in the case of ISIS, religious belief is clearly behind acts of violence. ”

    — This is a bit misleading. Example: For the US repubs, it is only political suicide to go after the correct (Christian) religion. Muslim bashing is often encouraged by right wingers. Your statement is perhaps more accurate if directed at some strands of liberalism that advocate hyper-tolerance (form of relativism) over liberty and justice.

    Perhaps you meant the statement to apply only to democrats given the context. Still, the message you send is a little misleading.

    • jay
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      And when they do (often correctly) criticize Islam, there is a flame war from the left. Racist! Racist!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Obama, however, says that, “No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day”. I think what Jerry is saying is Obama couldn’t get away with leaving the god part out and out and outright say that religion is at the root of this. If he did, everyone would get all up in his grill over it.

      • Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        In other words…either he’s an hypocrite and a coward….

        b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          Or just trying to keep his eye on what he really wants.

          • Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            Doesn’t that fall under the “hypocrite” label?

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              No, I think a compromiser.

              • Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                Oh, he’s compromised, all right….

                b&

          • Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Yes!

  16. Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Sub

    • francis
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      //

  17. colnago80
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    As George Schultz, the former Secretary of State once opined, terrorists like ISIL members are not even people.

    • Daoud
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Well he must have been a bit foolish. The problem with ISIL members is that they are all too human.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        +1

  18. jay
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    There is a commentary on CNN who pointed out that in the recent execution video, the killer spoke in a clearly London accent (as someone who had actually lived there) . Various British accents were noticeable in some other barbaric videos recently.

    These are NOT some backwater phenomenon, these are people who lived and were educated in the West.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes and I heard commentary from officials in England who are concerned about those that make come back and do harm.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      International anti-terrorism organizations have identified as joining ISIL:
      700 from France
      800 from Russia
      450 from Britain
      250 from Belgium
      100 from USA

      NZ and Australia are refusing or confiscating the passports of those suspected of intending to join ISIL. The US are trying to do the same. The Aussie who recently posted a photo of his son holding a severed head had had his passport confiscated so took his brother’s.

  19. h2ocean
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Has nothing to do with religion? What does the first “I” in ISIS stand for again?

  20. Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Obama suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder. And he reads his speeches. He is back on the gholf course!

    • GBJames
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      That’s both wrongly spelled and wrongly conceived, assuming you intend to suggest that he takes excessive vacation time. In fact he’s taken far less than his predecessor.

      • Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        You have to compare him to make him look good?

        • GBJames
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          No. I have to respond to ambiguous attacks that make no sense.

          You have to pretend that presidents should not take any time off to make him look bad?

        • rickflick
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          Don’t get too excited about any of this. Presidents are never truly on vacation. The work goes with them. Besides, its not quantity, but quality. But everyone deserves a break from the stress. It’s not the kind of a career you undertake for pleasure and leisure. I can think of lots of easier ways to get time on a golf course.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          I’ll presume to make a comparison. E.g., the “Hon.” John Shimkus, R-Illinois, who, when taken to task by Democrats on his committee for not letting Secretary Sibelius answer his questions, replied, “I don’t have to let her answer!”

      • Tulse
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Wait…melouisef isn’t a Poe?

      • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        I’ve heard he has sex occasionally too.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      What makes you see Obama as a narcissist. He strikes me as one of the few presidents that hasn’t been.

  21. Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    [N]o faith teaches people to massacre innocents.

    I’ve tried to come up with an interpretation of that which leaves it correct, and failed. The closest I can come is that the Abrahamic religions order massacres, but define those being massacred as evil, not innocent — see, for example, the Flood, the Plagues, the Midianites, and all the way through Luke 19:27 and Armageddon.

    But even that doesn’t pass muster. See, for example, the famous sidestepped example of Abraham and Isaac, but also Jephthah and his daughter…and Jesus himself, the (according to Christianity) ultimate sacrifice of an innocent human.

    And that, of course, is long before we get to the Aztecs….

    Cheers,

    b&

  22. Richard Hicks
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s quote is one of my favorites:

    Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea.

  23. Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.

    No true Muslim puts sugar on his porridge or wears anything under his kilt.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Can you say that wi’ a bit o’ brrrrogue?

      • Filippo
        Posted August 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        “Fourr steps ahead,
        And then to the left,
        And right to the place wherrrre I marrrked it,

        With me bonnie, bonnie bone,
        That I’ll burry forr my own,
        In me bonnie, bonnie bank
        In the back yarrrd.”

        (Sung to “Loch Lomond” by Jock the Scottish terrier, in “Lady and the Tramp.”)

  24. Matt
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    There is no viable solution to this problem. They can’t be reasoned with. They can’t be threatened. They can’t be bribed. The only thing they understand is force, and the USA and the rest of the world is not willing to conduct the type of warfare necessary to eradicate them. Without the resolve to conduct total warfare, the best we can hope for is to contain them. There will be attacks on western countries; more of our citizens will be killed. This is the price we will pay for maintaining the moral high ground. Only time will judge whether our limited response to an enemy with unlimited brutality was the right decision. This is just the next chapter of a 1000 year old war.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Spoken like a true warlord.

      • Matt
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Those are the facts. Just because the options to deal with the facts all suck doesn’t make them wrong. If you can point anything where my reasoning is flawed please do so. I am not an advocate of war as your ad hominem statement would imply. I am open to criticism and other options but I just don’t see any.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          Full out war should be a last resort. Look what happened the last few times. The other choices are not clear to me, but I think the administration is working on it.

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I hope that your statement ultimately proves to be incorrect, but it is imprudent to dismiss it out of hand. It has been accurately pointed out several times that the track record for Western intervention in the Middle East is abysmal. However, consider the track record for appeasement. We may ultimately have to accept that in this situation, as is very common in foreign policy, there may be nothing but horrific options.

      • Matt
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Me too, but as you point out both solutions have never ended well, and we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Could we live with ourselves by embracing total warfare on innocents? No. So the alternative is to have limited military engagements that contain the threat, knowing from time to time our containment strategy will fail and people will pay the price.

        • Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          I am unaware of any examples wherein “limited military engagements” have had a net positive effect. The most generous such example I can think of would be drone strikes in Pakistan, yet that has been disastrous and egregious in the extreme.

          We don’t tend to do very well with “limited.” Every mission creeps, and has done so at least since the Korean War. And we inevitably cause collateral damage on the same scale as we’re ostensibly fighting to stop — about a quarter million dead in Iraq alone already, and probably about as many in Afghanistan and Pakistan….

          We can reasonably offer limited humanitarian assistance, including delivering supplies and helping with evacuations. That’s obviously not nearly enough to protect all those at risk…but, the problem is, it just simply isn’t within our power to do that, no matter how badly we might want to. The current situation in Iraq with the Caliphate is a direct result of our previous intervention efforts there, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that any future intervention efforts will have similarly disastrous results.

          b&

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            Imo the main reason that ISIL has managed to get a foothold in Iraq is that the government of al-Maliki failed to be inclusive. Kurds and Sunnis were treated as second-class citizens. He also removed, down to brigade level, all those military trained by the US. And, he failed to pass on $200 million worth of American military equipment to the Kurds.

            So the Sunnis turned to ISIL because of the way their own government treated them, and the Kurds didn’t have the equipment and the Iraqi army didn’t have the training to stop them militarily.

            There is hope and expectation the new PM will govern more inclusively, which will encourage the Sunnis to reject ISIL, enabling them to at least be driven back to Syria, where they came from.

            • Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

              The only thing I’d add to your analysis is that al Maliki was a puppet governor installed by the US and that there’s been ongoing criticism that exactly this sort of thing would happen — that there was no confidence in US-trained Iraqi troops and a general consensus outside of Rumsfeldian optimists that they were likely to turn tail and / or defect at the slightest sign of opposition. Which is exactly what they did. And the defectors, of course, took with them the huge stockpiles of weapons we gave them.

              So, sure, in one sense it’s the fault of the Caliphate who’s actually committing the horrors. And, in another sense, it’s the fault of the weak-minded and ineffective Iraqi government.

              But, in the most relevant and obvious sense, it’s the fault of the Obama administration which couldn’t have engineered this outcome more effectively than if they had tried.

              It’s really a quite striking parallel with the Catholic Church’s handling of the child rape crisis. Yes, it’s the fault of the priests who rape children. But it’s also the fault of the parish and diocesan authorities who were determined to handle the matters internally, and especially the fault of the Vatican who encouraged that rapist priests be sent from church to church across the country as fast as possible so they could rape as many children as they could ever dream to — and who continues to shield known rapists and their accomplices from prosecution and won’t even comply with subpoena records requests.

              Maybe in both cases it’s incompetence and cowardice rather than active malice driving the actions, but what difference does that make? The result is indistinguishable — and few prosecutors or juries would care much about the distinction.

              Cheers,

              b&

          • GBJames
            Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            “I am unaware of any examples wherein “limited military engagements” have had a net positive effect.”

            The people of Sarajevo might be able to suggest an example for you.

            • Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

              The key difference there, of course, is that it was basically all the surrounding countries decisively stepping in to enforce a peace. If Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan were putting together an alliance to stop the civil war in Iraq, I’d be less likely to criticize.

              But what’s happening in Iraq right now would be more akin to China deciding to send cruise missile strikes against FARK positions in response to the US bombing of their embassy. The whole situation is incoherent and aimless and no more justifiable than a young child’s tantrum.

              …that, and I’ll see your example, and raise you Afghanistan, and the second Iraq war, and Pakistan, and the first Iraq war, and Vietnam, and Korea, and….

              b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

                Also, the UN was involved.

              • Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

                Yes, exactly — along with NATO. That’s what I meant by, “neighbors.” Europeans in Europe reaching an European consensus to break up the ongoing domestic violence crisis in the corner house.

                Iraq is much more like some Beverly Hills teenagers doing a random drive-by somewhere in Watts because their coke supplier’s rival beats his hos.

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

                Ah I see, except Canada was involved in the UN part & so was NZ. I remember seeing them do hakas in Croatia so a big wider than neighbours. More like, international pals.

              • Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                As I remember, it was mostly European forces with overseas allies participating at their request, rather than, as here and the last couple times in Iraq, the US instigating everything and calling all the shots.

                …but I could certainly be misremembering things….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                1991-1992 there was a European monitoring mission in the Balkans. I know Canada was part of that too. Then there was the later conflict in 1998/1999. I think the UN participated in the controversial NATO bombing (I think Canada had CF-18s in the mix)then there were some UN peacekeeping afterward led by Europeans as well as others where various allies in the UN also participated.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

                Oh and I forgot to add, what the key difference is – a bunch of nations with relations with the Balkans decided to do something. That’s what we need here but somehow I don’t see it happening. We’ll need to get involved somehow though even if it’s making sure our own errant citizens don’t get to come back & mess with us.

                Incidentally, my dad has a Serbian acquaintance. He saw him in a Serbian army uniform and he asked him in a “what the hell” way (Canadian troops were fighting over there at the time as part of the UN and NATO). He sheepishly told a story about how a Canadian soldier caught him when they captured a bunch of guys shooting at them. He produced his Canadian passport and the soldier told him to get on a plane right now and get his ass back to Canada. He said he did too – immediately. I said he’s lucky he didn’t get shot! Stupid idiot!

              • Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                Oh and I forgot to add, what the key difference is – a bunch of nations with relations with the Balkans decided to do something. That’s what we need here but somehow I don’t see it happening.

                Exactly — you must have hit “send” on this note the same time as I did mine calling for Iraq’s neighbors to settle this.

                I said he’s lucky he didn’t get shot! Stupid idiot!

                Wow…hopefully, he learned his lesson…they often don’t, but sometimes do….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, I think the guy actually did learn his lesson – I think the soldier scared the crap out of him.

                The West should put pressure on the funding sources of ISIL. Rumour has it Qatar funds them – we need to chat with them. Cut off their $$ then refuse re-entry of any citizens participating in their BS abroad. That should at least slow them down a bit while we figure out what to do long term with the participation and help of the countries that can make a difference who surround them.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

                You’re changing the goalposts. You couldn’t think of any examples. The folk in Kosovo suggested one. The reasonable response would be different, I think, than “yeah, but … (the post moving team comes onto the field)”.

              • Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

                Sorry. I wasn’t thinking of Kosovo and thus clearly wasn’t thinking of it as an example. The rest of the post was demonstrating how irrelevant Kosovo was as an example in the case of Iraq, except insofar as it’s the diametric opposite of the situation there.

                Again, put together a coalition of Iranian, Kuwaiti, Saudi, Jordanian, and Turkish forces looking to implement an UN-sanctioned peace deal in Iraq, and then you might get my grudging support for limited American participation.

                b&

  25. Tulse
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    the USA and the rest of the world is not willing to conduct the type of warfare necessary to eradicate them

    And that type would be…what? How is this different from Vietnam, or from Afghanistan for the Soviets? There simply isn’t a military solution for this.

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Soviets in Afghanistan, hell — we’ve been there half as long again as they were, with no (credible) sign of us leaving any time soon.

      And the chances of us avoiding a third war in Iraq in fewer than that many decades seems slim and fleeting by the day.

      …this, of course, thanks to the president who campaigned on an anti-war platform….

      b&

    • Matt
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      It would be total unrestricted warfare, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since WWII. I am not advocating that, I am not saying that is what I think we should do. I served, and know that would make us lose our humanity. It would make us worse than ISIS for we know how wrong it would be to slaughter the innocents. Like I said, “There is no viable solution to this problem” – to include military intervention.

  26. docbill1351
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    We can’t bomb them back to the Stone Age because they’re already there. Can’t nuke them from orbit, either. That didn’t work in Aliens – someone always gets out.

    These rat finks are trying to establish a Caliphate. What the hell? How do the economics work for that? What are they going to do, raid their neighbors for food?

    As a thought experiment, if the World want’s to get serious about these morons and their Caliphates then we need to start with the head of the snake: Saudi Arabia. Worldwide boycott of SA oil and a total economic blockade. The message to SA should be clear. Clean up this mess.

    While everybody is all aghast at ISIS, the Saudi’s operate their own Caliphate and nobody cares. Oppress women, fine. Behead people, okie dokie. We simply turn a blind eye to institutional abuses that have been going on in that part of the world for centuries.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      While everybody is all aghast at ISIS, the Saudi’s operate their own Caliphate and nobody cares.

      That’s an excellent point. I don’t know that ISIS is any worse that the Saudis, or Yemen.

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Ah, but don’t you see? Boycotting Saudi oil would hurt those who put our politicians in power. And military intervention in Iraq is the most likely way to put the Iraqi oilfields under the control of those friendly to our politicians’s owner’s interests.

      After all, we can’t have $10/gallon / 2€/liter gas, now, can we?

      b&

      • docbill1351
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, tell me about it. I live in Texas and if gas prices creep up there is such howling you’d think coyotes drove cars.

        There’s a huge willingness to complain and Americans are World Class complainers, but there is no stomach for any action that might affect our precious lifestyle.

        I remember the huge savings we made in the late 70’s and 80’s with campaigns to carpool, turn off lights and conserve energy. Little things, but with huge impact. Then, after things eased up a little, out cam the Hummers, Ford Excursion and partying like it was 1959.

        The countries in the middle east will need to usher and promote change themselves. But so long as you have a guy who calls himself Prince, and not The Artist, it’s not going to work. It’s good to be Prince and party like it’s 1999.

        • Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          That’s why I think the most effective action regular American citizens and others in Western nations can do to work against the evil of the Caliphate…

          …is to cover your roofs in solar panels and convert your daily drivers to electric vehicles.

          And, oh-by-the-way, if you’ve got the capital available to make the investment, it’ll pay far better than any bank account or CD you can get, and for many it’ll outperform the stock market. A 10% annual rate of return on investment is not at all unusual. If you don’t have the capital, you can finance it in one of many ways and see returns in line with the aforementioned bank accounts and CDs — still nothing to turn your nose up at.

          Other good options available to most include public transit (and other alternative modes such as bicycling) and telecommuting.

          Maybe it’s not as viscerally rewarding as a drone-fired missile blowing up a tent filled with people celebrating a wedding…but it’s much more effective and it puts money in your pocket. What’s not to love?

          b&

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      The first step is getting the world that dislikes these folks to get along and cooperate. Good luck with that. We’re all doomed.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      ISIL currently has control of four working oil fields in northern Iraq. They transport that oil to mobile refineries in Syria, then sell the petrol (gasoline) back in Mosul. They also sell some of the crude on the black market. They are making $1-2 million/day from this. They have also made an enormous amount from theft, especially from banks when they conquer a town. Their cash reserves are currently estimated to be $500 million. Their access to foreign donations and markets has now been cut off, but they’re now financially viable in their own right.

      • docbill1351
        Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        An eon ago I read a biography of Alexander the Great by Arrian. I highly recommend it.

        The conquering model of the time was to move from settlement to settlement, kingdom to kingdom, loot it and leave a few generals behind, the ones who wanted to retire, to run the place.

        Appears to be the same model today. I suppose ISIL would have to recruit or coerce engineers to continue to operate the refineries and the pipelines that supply them. They’ll burn through their loot in no time.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 22, 2014 at 5:47 am | Permalink

          Actually, Alexander was a bit different from the standard model. He usually did not loot. Usually he would first ask that you acknowledge him as “overlord”, pay a moderate tribute (extortion), and let you go on about your business with your own rulers still in place. Often there was no fighting. Sometimes rulers came to him first in an attempt to avoid unpleasantness.

          Things were a bit different if you didn’t accept the offer. If he thought you behaved honorably you could still get a pretty good deal after you surrendered, though you then did get one of those generals to govern over you.

          What was really bad was if a ruler took the deal, and then backed out after Alexander left. Not a good idea. That’s when he turned around, even if he was already a month away, came back and made an example out of you to encourage everyone else.

          About the worst example was poor Thebes. After his father, Phillip, died the alliance of Greek city states that he had hammered together immediately flew apart. Alexander’s first goal was to reunite them and then head to Persia. He did it very quickly by demonstrating that he was not to be fucked with. Thebes was the demonstration. They decided to fight. He made the city level with the ground, killed all of the men and sold all of the woman and children into slavery. It worked.

  27. Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    When a top politician makes a planned speech every word is carefully weighed, knowing it will be picked to pieces, especially by their enemies.

    What ever Obama’s true feelings are his speech writers know that they
    1) must avoid implying religion (in general) is wrong – any religeon. As much as the US religious right shouts about the fakery of Islam, if their arch-enemy can be shown to be denying the fact of a God, he becomes that worst of all Americans – an Atheist.

    2) Weighing on the Whitehouses mind will be to avoid scapegoating Islam, to protect US Muslims. The wrong word can make it look like open season.

  28. Posted August 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    The arguments have become quite semantic, and why not? But I feel that Obama was not trying to avoid critising religion but faith.

    I do not believe in God but I am often amazed and touched by the manifestations of people’s faith in very small and local or personal ways. These people that I have met over the years have been quietly going about their lives helping others, facing adversity and showing a tolerance that I often envy.

    There are 1.6 Billion Muslims world-wide and ISIS is but a few thousand of them. (and thanks to airstrikes, their numbers are diminishing) – Yes they speak as Muslims but not for Muslims. Any more than Hitler spoke for atheists.

    I think the message coming from Obama was not that they had lost their religion, rather they had lost their humanity. Islam,, Marxism, Christianity, Judaism atheism or whatever, its almost immaterial in my view, it’s all about how people act. Isis people have lost their humanity regardless of the isms involved.

    • Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      These people that I have met over the years have been quietly going about their lives helping others, facing adversity and showing a tolerance that I often envy.

      Hitchens’s Challenge is especially apt: name one moral act a believer can do that a non-beliver cannot. I do believe you will find similar proportions of atheists whose lives are every bit as silently noble as believers. Indeed, the odds favor the godless….

      Any more than Hitler spoke for atheists.

      Unless you want to break out the bagpipes, Hitler was every bit as Christian as any American president since him. Indeed, Hitler’s anti-Semitism was directly cast in the mold of Martin Luther, and included many explicit references to both Luther’s writings and Scripture itself. And do you remember what the SS had stamped on their belt buckles?

      Islam,, Marxism, Christianity, Judaism atheism or whatever, its almost immaterial in my view, it’s all about how people act.

      Marxism is a (failed) economic theory. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all have explicit commandments from their highest authorities to kill all those not of their tribe. Yet a lack of belief in those gods no more compels one to atrocity than a lack of belief in Santa compels one to be naughty.

      In the words of the great man, religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

      Cheers,

      b&

  29. madscientist
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Well put. I was just blinking and thing “wtf?” those nuts definitely aren’t nihilistic.

    Murdering people is nothing but a publicity stunt to terrorize the general public. No sensible person can ever give in to their demands; this is a situation in which there’s a fairly stark choice between liberty or death. ISIL are a global threat. You can bet they’re planning terrorist attacks on the USA and other nations as part of their propaganda campaign. Thank you so much Dubbyah Boosh for making the world a ‘safer’ place. I’m betting that within the year we’ll see how effective the TSA really are; I wonder what they’ll do when their security theater is shown for the farce that it is.

  30. Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I think Obama just may have given a subtle hint that he is an atheist. The use of the phrase “no just god” strikes me as odd if he actually believes in a deity. He could’ve said “God is just” or something along those lines and not risked any political capital. We all know the career suicide it would be for him to say anything explicitly atheistic. Contrast his statements to those of President Bush with the Og and Magog nonsense and daily Biblical readings to prepare to fight for “God’s will.” The distinction is glaringly obvious.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      That’s Gog and Magog – don’t make Gog mad, Palin can only watch Gog from her window for so long. If she takes her eye off, who knows what will happen! 😉

      I suspect Obama is an atheist or at least agnostic. I just can’t buy that he is a for realz believer. Of course, I could just be mind blind and think he must think like me because I like him.

      • Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        It’s also stories like this that make me wonder more.

        As for Gog, I won’t worry too much. Og is more powerful and will stop Gog. I can’t prove it, but you’ll have to trust me, I had a revelation.

  31. Posted August 21, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Spot on right. Excellent essay.

  32. Posted August 22, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The standard blancmange from Barry. But for every group there’s a wide range of opinion and attitudes. It’s a bit like David Gregory saying that Netanyahu was the ‘leader of the Jewish people’ when he had gotten just 22% of the vote in the previous Israeli election, and Israel is home to about 30% of world jewry. So even if half of the world’s Muslims sympathize with IS you’re still dissing 600 million people for nothing, which is why _politicians_ talk this way.


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